At 61 the swollen glands under her arm and knot in her breast were concerning.  She somehow ended up at a rheumatologist, who told her he thought she must have metastatic breast cancer.

The lump kept growing, despite ignoring it.  Eventually she ended up in our clinic.  Mammograms were ordered confirming her fears – breast cancer. 

She, however, decided not to see an oncologist.  She said that she’d seen her mother and grandmother die of breast cancer, despite treatment.  She’d watched friends, sick from chemotherapy, still dying.  As every patient has the right to do, she refused any further treatment.

Unfortunately, whatever notion she had of quickly dying in her sleep from this ravaging disease, didn’t happen.  Instead, the tumor, now softball size worked it’s way to the surface and fungated.  It’s a term that looks as bad as it sounds.

This I’ve seen in other countries, and am including a picture I took of a woman with a fungating breast cancer in Papua New Guinea. Most people don’t have a chance to see and smell cancer, because usually it’s confined within our bodies.  But it smells, and leaks fluid, and worse, is a visualization of the cancer that lives within.

This woman has changed her mind now on treatment. Tho, much too late.  We’ll help take away the mass, but can’t take away the cancer.

Honestly, it surprised me to see a tumor left to grow unheeded by treatment. It’s not something you see everyday in the united states. Unlike places such as New Guinea, where lack of medical care allows tumors to progress this far, it’s eerie to think this happened because of free choice- we let our patients have the ultimate say.

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